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7
Jan 21

Sing and sing and sing and sing

I finished reading Jon Meacham’s Songs of America. Yes, Tim McGraw is listed as a co-author. He did contribute some sidebars. They were included in the book. For the most part it wasn’t clear why. Meacham doesn’t need the help with history, and maybe twice McGraw contributed something to our understanding of the music. (And he’s certainly capable of doing that, but it didn’t really pay off here.

It was a lot more like the guy at the next table over just offering his opinion on a song you just played him. Maybe he knows it well. Maybe it sparks a memory from long ago. Maybe he’s hearing it for the first time. And he figures, well, since you’re talking about it and played it for him, he should probably offer a paragraph or two of thoughts on the matter.

And that’s what Tim McGraw did. I wondered how this arrangement came to be. It’s Jon Meacham. Which kinda diminishes McGraw, who has three Grammy wins and 17 other nominations among his other honors. He knows music, this is not a matter of dispute. He’s apparently written five other books, and one of those was a bestseller. But here, why was he here if a few sidebars was all he was going to contribute.

And then, at the end, they mention it. They are neighbors.

Anyway, it was an interesting book. You’re going to learn about songs you know. You’re going to discover important songs you haven’t even heard of before. Here are two little excerpts, from Meacham.

Susan B. Anthony had gone down to vote in the 1872 Grant-Greeley election. She was arrested and taken before a federal judge. The judge asked her if she had anything to say after her conviction for … voting.

Ward Hunt was on the U.S. Supreme Court. History doesn’t remember him especially well. He didn’t let her testify, read aloud his pre-written opinion, told the jury how to vote and immediately overturned motions for appeals. Anthony was charged with a fine. She told the judge she would never pay. She never did. Probably you’ve never heard of Judge. Hunt. Everyone learns about Susan B. Anthony, even if only a bit, in grade school.

Just go ahead and play this video while you read the text in next image.

In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution refused Marian Anderson’s participation in a concert at Constitution Hall under a “white performers-only” policy. Ultimately, a lot of DAR members left the organization, including Eleanor Roosevelt who would get the ball rolling for this Easter concert in front of the Lincoln Memorial. The contralto was in full force, a global star. No one knows how many thousands or millions listened on the radio, but one of the estimated 75,000 there in person was said to be 10-year-old Martin Luther King. (I’ve seen one reference on this, but I am struggling to find more.) He’d speak in front of Lincoln 24 years later, of course. She sang from the same spot that day, too.

Senator Mike Braun is from Indiana, and I have a question for him and the others who found themselves in this rickety position this week regarding the cynical political pandering of which he was a part. This was his message last week, and for quite some time:

And then yesterday happened — prior to which he was face-to-face with people in a way that rarely happens and he formalized his Arizona objection — but after the deadly assault, he wrote this:

So, senator, do us all a favor and explain this. You were certain, prior to the seditious raid on the U.S. Capitol, that this objection was something that needed to be done. Now, not at all. You withdrew your objection to the formal vote certification. So which is it, senator? Did you feel the wind change? Or are you that easily persuadable?

And which, in your estimation, is a better attribute for a United States senator?


8
Dec 20

Things you should and shouldn’t do

Woke up tired. I’ve been waking up tired. And by tired I mean, tired. Anyone else doing that lately?

Anyone else grimly making jokes about why that may be happening? It’s not like I’m not getting six or seven or even eight hours of sleep — you should do that. There must be something else to it, right?

So I googled it — you should never do this — and it apparently has a technical term. It’s called “fa-teag-way.” It must be Italian.

Turns out, if you read the web — you should skeptically do this — that there are so many possibilities for it as to make you think that it’s probably none of them, or beyond your ability to successfully isolated and test the variables. Changing your “sleep environment” is no easy thing, after all.

“Chances are,” Healthline says, “your morning grogginess is just sleep inertia, which is a normal part of the waking process. Your brain typically doesn’t instantly wake up after sleeping. It transitions gradually to a wakeful state.”

So I search for some scientific documentation — you should always do this — on “sleep inertia.” Take it away, Dr. Lynn Marie Trotti in the National Institutes of Health journal Sleep Medicine Reviews:

The transition from sleep to wake is marked by sleep inertia, a distinct state that is measurably different from wakefulness and manifests as performance impairments and sleepiness. Although the precise substrate of sleep inertia is unknown, electroencephalographic, evoked potential, and neuroimaging studies suggest the persistence of some features of sleep beyond the point of awakening. Forced desynchrony studies have demonstrated that sleep inertia impacts cognition differently than do homeostatic and circadian drives and that sleep inertia is most intense during awakenings from the biological night. Recovery sleep after sleep deprivation also amplifies sleep inertia, although the effects of deep sleep vary based on task and timing.

It’s an interesting paper. Probably I’m just groggy.

Completely neglected the cats yesterday. Not in real life, mind you, but in this mediated space. The cats are great. Happy and snoozing and bathing and eating and annoying us at all the wrong times, knowing they can solve that problem by being cute and cuddly for 90 seconds.

Here’s Poseidon catching a nap on the stovetop cover.

He loves the radiant heat from the stove eyes. The other night he jumped up too soon and got a little warm. He jumped up and stepped a little too close and hoped off quickly, all before I could cover the distance. His cat-like reflexes served him well, and he was fine. And it hasn’t dissuaded him from one of his favorite napping places. But maybe he’ll learn to wait for the cover to get put back into plact.

And this is Phoebe, who was caught playing on the computer again.

She was googling cats. You should never do that.


2
Dec 20

The week with bad titles, part three

I forgot to include this here earlier this week. So, without prelude, give us the fancy old-fashioned banner.

I talked with Dr. Siering a week or so ago about pedagogy and remote learning and all these sorts of things that faculty and students are dealing with just now. It’s a good episode if you’re a faculty member or a student. (And you know they all stop through here.) It might be only for them. But, nevertheless, we’re covering all the bases.

And now I have to go out and find a few more people to interview. Should be fun! What topics should we cover?

We haven’t filled out this space with other stories recently, let’s do that now.

Birmingham woman raising 12 kids after sister, brother-in-law die from COVID

Already raising seven biological children ranging in age from 2 to 17 as a working, single mother, the 40-year-old Birmingham resident’s last conversation with her dying sister in UAB Hospital about the arrangements for their kids was no longer hypothetical.

[…]

And her sister’s children are not without anxieties of their own, she said. On top of the grief of losing both their parents, the children are reluctant to go outside out of fear of catching COVID-19, Francesca McCall said.

But all things considered, she said, “We’re doing OK. They have their [tough] moments at times, processing everything.”

The GoFundMe account has raised $40,000+ since that story was published.

These seem like charming people. Philly’s Four Seasons Total Landscaping dishes the dirt on the news conference heard ’round the world: ‘It was nothing we anticipated’:

The merchandise sales of Four Seasons Total Landscaping have taken on a life of their own. The conference room at their office has become a makeshift fulfillment center, as Siravo and the company’s 28 full-time employees take turns bagging orders and printing labels, starting at 6 a.m and racking up overtime hours working long into the night.

Partnering with half a dozen local vendors (all but one is located in the Philadelphia region), the company has sold over 35,000 orders for T-shirts, ugly Christmas sweaters, face masks — totaling $1.3 million in sales. (Much of the money will be used to pay back vendors, shipping costs, and more, Middleton said, making clear that Four Seasons won’t be putting $1.3 million in its bank account.)

[…]

In hopes of helping others during Four Season’s moment in the sun, Siravo said the company is participating in a Toys for Tots drive with St. Christopher’s Hospital. Through Dec. 11, visitors can drop off unwrapped toys at the office in exchange for a Four Seasons sticker. Separately, Siravo said the company is also collecting coats, hats, socks, and other cold-weather clothing to donate to local charity.

This looks like a nice place to visit. The Munich Atelier where stained glass comes to life:

The Mayers oversee the business from a series of sunny, art-filled rooms on the top two floors of the building. Dozens of warrenlike workshops and ateliers crowd the four floors beneath — here, workmen restore historic stained-glass windows and mosaics, while others make contemporary works. The labyrinthine basement archive houses an extensive collection of vintage stained-glass works.

The only problem is that he’s going to look like Carlton Banks for the rest of his life. The hardest-working man in show business:

Yet as much as the world equates Ribeiro to Carlton, the years following The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air may have revealed more about the man—his persistence, his versatility, and his undeniability. If you let him tell it, for a while the role Ribeiro played so well was the role that held him back. “Imagine for a second you do a role so well that they tell you you’re not allowed to do anything else ever again because they can’t believe that you’re not that guy,” he says. But the ceiling Ribeiro hit as an actor forced him to develop other skills, which helped him emerge as one of the most versatile—albeit underrated—performers in Hollywood.

I’ll never understand. You’d think casting agents and directors would be … imaginative.

More on Twitter, check me out on Instagram and more On Topic with IU podcasts as well.


2
Jul 20

Things I read

I subscribe to Bookbub, a service that sends me emails about books I might like. You sign up, pick your genres, and they send you daily links to Kindle books onsale. I’ve gotten some decent books off the list. Certainly each of them have been worth the money I’ve paid. All of the books range from $.99 to $2.99. And aside from the algorithm sometimes wandering around, it’s been a great service. I tell all of the readers I know about it. No one seems as excited by it as I do, which is fine, but it is a mystery.

Two years ago I got an offer for a complete set of James MacGregor Burns’ three-volume masterpiece, “The American Experiment.” It won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Club award. It was 4,000 pages of reading. It was on sale for $2.99.

The modern world is weird.

I didn’t buy it, but as I type this, I regret that. I do see a lot of books come back around so if that series shows up again, I’ll jump on it. Though, honestly, that feels more like a bookshelf book than a Kindle book.

Anyway, I generally read the Kindle books at night, which makes it slow going. I stay up until I’m exhausted, then get ready for bed and then read myself to sleep. So it’s a few pages here, a few pages there. Meaning it took a while for me to finish this book.

Wrapped it up last night. Coolidge tells you a lot about the former president you didn’t know, because you don’t know a lot about Coolidge. That’s a product of the man and our educational system, I guess. But here you get a lot of his economic politics, which makes sense given the author. It’s also a complimentary book, perhaps just a tiny bit fawning, which makes sense given that Amity Shlaes is also chair of the board of trustees of the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation.

I’m sure it glosses over some of the contemporary criticism. Teapot Dome is in there, and sure, that’s Harding, but it resonated over Coolidge’s administration, but we don’t get what was surely the real heft of it. And perhaps there are other things, too. Which, hey, to a degree that’s fine. I paid $2.14 after tax and it isn’t an exhaustive biography or the most authoritative scholarship, but it’s a decent enough primer. I’d like to find out about the man as anything and there are parts of his life where you’re put in the room.

I love this part. Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Harvey Firestone — the vagabonds, they called themselves — have made the pilgrimage to Vermont to see Coolidge before the reelection in 1924. There was the need to give a gift.

Love that line. It’s so New England. Shopworn and perfect.

Coolidge, who was so often a man of few words, probably didn’t say anything like that. Maybe it’s all Shlaes, but the ethos and pathos there say so much. I should make a present-tense version of that and brand it into things I make.

I found photographs of the event. But then I found this:

Ford isn’t whispering to Edison there. The great inventor by then was nearly deaf. You learn in the book that the vagabonds were charmed by Grace Coolidge, the first lady taught at a school for the deaf, and she was helpful with clear speaking and lip reading. The Coolidges had, just a month before, buried their youngest son, at just 16-years-old. And suddenly you’re summering at home and then come these huge leaders of American innovation because campaigns never really stop, even back then.

Here’s more of that footage, if you are inclined.

Having finished Coolidge, I started this book last night.

I mentioned it in a group chat recently and became the butt of many jokes. I’m three or four chapters in and, aside for expounding a little more than necessary on fish, it’s a good read.

Fish was an important part of the Mediterranean diet — still is! And of course this was a staple in England — yep! Northern Europe — sure enough, name a country, we checked! And it’s all in this book. I don’t know if it is going to be the most exhaustive book on salt, but if it isn’t you’ll nevertheless be satisfied. The larger point is how this humble little mineral is a culture shaping, societal forming chemical compound. And so far we’ve only covered China, a bit of India and the first part of selections of Europe, bouncing back and forth across several centuries.

Its Amazon’s best seller in geology. And just look at that list and tell me you wouldn’t dazzle people at parties with the things you could learn from those books. The 19th best seller is about mines in a particular county in Nevada. Number 37? So glad you asked, “Carbonate Reservoir Characterization: An Integrated Approach.”

I’d say that’s the sort of thing you read to get some Stop Bothering Me trivia, but how much of that does one really need?


19
Mar 20

How are you settling in?

Everyone is getting a little more adjusted to their current realities. More people are staying indoors and at home, such as they can. And there are adjustments we’re all learning to make. It’s interesting to see and hear about. In between the many work emails and such.

Not everyone can, of course. Some people’s work requires them to be physically present. And some people just don’t get it. (But they’re liable to, if they keep that up, and they’re going to give it to others.)

And, it turns out, we don’t have the power of bulletproof young people we thought we did, either. Yes, Young People Are Falling Seriously Ill From Covid-19:

New evidence from Europe and the U.S. suggests that younger adults aren’t as impervious to the novel coronavirus that’s circulating worldwide as originally thought.

Despite initial data from China that showed elderly people and those with other health conditions were most vulnerable, young people — from twenty-somethings to those in their early forties — are falling seriously ill. Many require intensive care, according to reports from Italy and France. The risk is particularly dire for those with ailments that haven’t yet been diagnosed.

I wonder when the stigmatization of the people living their social lives really begins. You’ll have to somehow distinguish between the folks going to work to pay their bills or venturing out to take care of the vital necessities of life. But places that haven’t shut down their venues, or had their events shut down for them by executive power, the people there are going to get judged, I’m sure.

Even our cats get it; stay home.

We had to open a box late last evening and boxes, as cat owners know, may as well be C.S. Lewis’ wardrobe. So I thought I would turn it upside down. Defeat the cat! He can’t get in. No, he couldn’t. He got on. So, I thought, maybe I’ll just make you a little cat house.

He liked it immediately.

Because they don’t have enough things to climb on or in around here.

I shared that picture with a fellow cat owner, and she sent me this video and urged me to build …

I will not. Because I have another idea.

On the dual subject of pets and finding things to break up your days just now …

Don’t watch that one while walking up steps, that’s what I learned.

This one is quite interesting, for different reasons:

These sound interesting to me.

Experiments: Now is a great time to learn science by doing science. In this series, we take kids through real scientific research projects, showing them how to apply the scientific method to develop their own experiments. Check out the full collection of experiments — and give one a try!

Explainers: We have explainers on many topics, from how to read brain activity to the greenhouse effect. Each is designed to take a deeper dive into the concepts that underlie science news and research.

Technically Fiction: These stories look into the science behind fiction, from Harry Potter to bigfoot to what it would take to make an elephant fly. These can be a great place to start if your child doesn’t think they like science.

I started a musical conversation this evening. Some of the good ones that came through …

And this is aimed at marketers, but we’re all doing a bit of that these days, if you think about it. So think about it.

Be mindful. That’s terrific outreach advice. Grace and patience, friends. Grace and patience.